UPDATE, Aug. 22, 2:48 p.m.:
Just days after Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim told ESPNNew York.com’s Ian Begley it would've been "better" for Carmelo Anthony to sign with the Chicago Bulls over the New York Knicks, Anthony offered up a good-natured response in an interview with Newsday's Will Salmon:
"I know [Boeheim] says some crazy stuff," Anthony said. "That's my guy. He's been the same way for 40 years."
Of all the big-name signings that highlighted this summer’s frenzied free-agency period, none are riper for second-guessing than Carmelo Anthony’s decision to ink a fresh five-year, $124 million deal with the New York Knicks.
In so doing, Anthony walked away from a chance to join the more contention-ready Chicago Bulls, albeit at a significantly lower price.
Time will tell if Melo made the right move in hitching the last of his prime basketball years to Phil Jackson’s Ring Express.
For his part, Jim Boeheim—who coached Anthony during the latter’s lone year at Syracuse University—thinks the Bulls should’ve been a no-brainer.
"Just from a basketball point of view it would have been better to go to Chicago because they've got better players," Boeheim told ESPNNew York.com’s Ian Begley Monday afternoon. "But he wanted to be in New York and he wants to see if they can turn it around there. I think that's a great thing."
File this one under “operating in the realm of reality.”
In returning to New York, Anthony opted for the bigger payday. No question about it.
But by putting his faith in Jackson’s front-office magic, one could argue Melo was banking on an even bigger return: a chance to capture New York’s first NBA title in over four decades.
However, as FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver recently posited, the sheer size of Anthony’s new contract—slight discount though he may have taken—is sure to make Jackson’s margin for error that much thinner:
So, what’s the problem? Actually, there are two. One is that Anthony’s value is front-loaded — he projects to be worth about $7 million more than his salary next season. But by age 34 — in the 2018-19 season — he’ll be worth $9 million less than his salary. That’s inconvenient for the Knicks, who will have much more opportunity to improve their roster in the summers of 2015 and 2016 than they do this year.
The more fundamental issue is that teams don’t win NBA championships by paying players fairly: They need to sign them for less than they’re worth. To a first approximation, a team of players paid at their market rate will finish at the league average record of 41-41.
In the end, Silver concludes the Knicks’ narrow championship hopes have as much to do with Anthony’s most recent contract as they do with how the All-Star forward first arrived in New York in the first place: to wit, in a massive trade that saw owner James Dolan part with nearly all his team’s young assets.
The Knicks, Silver argues, are still paying for that transgression—and paying mightily.
Will the Jackson magic be enough to exorcise Dolan’s demons? Anthony’s definitely banking on it, if less financially than for his own basketball legacy.
At the same time, had Anthony chosen to take his talents to Lake Michigan, he would’ve surely been met by a chorus of criticism by those who could only see joining the Bulls as taking the easy way out—riding the basketball coattails of an already established core.
So it goes in the world of professional sports, where players are so often damned whether they do or—even if it’s not typically one of their old coaches doing the damning.
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